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18 - 24 Aug, 2012

The Precedence of Eid

The web that entwines our lives does it so well that every aspect of it is so craftily weaved together, that we can never come out of it no matter how hard we try. From the moment we step out of our houses to earn bread till the time we wake up the next morning, we remain chained to the standards of life, that we in this materialistic world have ourselves created. You must be wondering, where all this philosophical clichéd talk leads to, well... it leads to introspection. As cynical as it may sound, I have witnessed quite a number of things that have become characteristic of the preparations and celebrations of the holy month of Ramadan in Pakistan. Since the month is about to end, and so is all the fanfare surrounding it, let's look back and sum it up the way it was. To begin with, we must not forget that every year one plague that hits the air is inflation and this year was no different. Except for the dates, pakoras and rose-water drinks, The Precedence of Eid around which the mind of a God-fearing common man enduring a fast, revolves, this Ramadan and the ones before it, made sure that the commoners continued to be worried by this menace. Fruit vendors banked on the opportunity to make a bonus, by forgetting all business morals preached by Islam, and hiking profits to over a hundred percent. Such is the plight that fruit-chaat, a favourite item in iftar menus have been ticked off from the list because of exorbitant amounts that fruit vendors have been charging for locally produced fruit.
Let's take a much needed break from the Ramadan-inflation-fever-bouts that grip the nation, because we have been fussing over it for so long that generations have grown up and inflation has lost its meaning in the pages of history, or has it? Heard of Nietzsche's "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" quote, well it's quite applicable in our case, because we are one of the kind that survive the ordeals with such strength that it borders on indifference. We extract little optimistic scintilla of sunshine bringing colour to all our festivals with their full galore irrespective of all that's going around. Ramadan becomes all about iftar parties and shopping, with the real essence of the holy month getting lost in the hoopla of it all. Even those facing the skies, complaining and cursing while being self-righteously pious, promptly shake their wallets for the mega festival.
Every year, the dilemma that the whole nation is presented with is the sighting (read: citing) of the moon. Those in charge of the due process get so much media attention during these three times of the year that they either succumb to the pressure of reaching a conclusion that favours all and sundry by viewing the moon, or end up authenticating factual evidences. Whatever the case, the nation is presented with an announcement quite later than is expected every year. In fact this year, there was so much cloud over the issue, I mean the skies, that it took quite long. However the chand-dilemma, as I so profoundly love to call it, was over-ridden by television. Electronic media never fails to woo its audiences, be it 'special Ramadan transmissions', extensive airtime to televangelists, or surfacing of religious reciters, the television remains abreast of all such developments. While viewers were left to watch religious shows hosted by a person of notorious credentials, with a tainted reputation in social media forums, it was a sad sight to see him trying to pull a Tariq Aziz. On the other hand, city wide billboards advertising faces of bearded television anchors who get most TRPs during Ramadan due to their religiosity had become quite a trend. How ironical it is to see that such developments, even for the sake of it, are only reserved for one month of the year. Advertising reminds me of the 360o change of angle that the holy month witnesses. With a heavy influx of cooking oils of almost every brand the country has, marketing its way thru print and electronic media, one also gets to see ads of delicious fry-ables and soft drinks pre-iftar, and those of antacids and anticonvulsants post-iftar, the timing of which is quite remarkably planned. The only industry that has gone slightly on the back foot in terms of advertising is telecommunication, apart from that even charitable organisations are in a run for their money as this is the only time of the year that they get more than they often expect.
Coming to corridors of power, politics is probably the only arena that remains indifferent to the proceedings of Ramadan. If you are wondering why, you can guess it yourself. The machinations of our powerful politicians never stop, and they continue to hatch plans, and address press conferences to discredit one another. The judiciary was busy striking down the Contempt of Court Act, and pursuing the Gilani-era case of writing letter to Swiss authorities against the current Prime Minister, the whole political machinery knows that in the grand scheme of things, the upcoming elections are the main focus. Conversely, opposition parties were mudslinging allegations by addressing press conferences and presenting factual data as evidence of wrongdoing, without any substantial proof. One wonders, that if these politicians have so much evidence against each another, and also enough evidence to prove others' allegations wrong, why don't they go to court, file defamatory lawsuits and pursue it the right way, instead of all the rhetoric that is doing nothing but discrediting either sides. And since they trust the judiciary and know that the latter is a beacon of hope for justice, they should pursue it in the courts. This political mudslinging reminds me of the charitable organisations advertising rigorously in a bid to get maximum zakat and kheraat. I would call it conscientious advertising, as elements used to garner ones attention are so heart-wrenching that one actually feels the urge to take some out of the pocket and give in for good cause. If welfare organisations are trying to collect donations, why should political parties sit idle; the same way political parties force their way into collecting the goat skin of the sacrificial animal during Bakra Eids, they do so here too, by bringing upon themselves the moral responsibility of collecting fitra.
As Eid inches closer, banks tellers and cashiers become VIPs because sufficing the demands of the general public and the obsession with crisp notes for Eidi, can only be done thru them. It's just another one of those redundant standards that people have established and are now a victim too. The money market is so hot that ten percent is charged extra of the amount of cash needed in new notes. What is worse is that people continue to feed the demons, by keeping up with the Joneses.
All that precedes Eid, during the month of Ramadan often at times becomes a sight to behold, not because of the festivities surrounding it, because that is a part and parcel of the occasion, but because the façade this society has put up, camouflaging the true essence of a religious festival as this.


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